Did you know that the food wasted by the United States and Europe alone could feed the world 3 times over? I didn’t. Now I do, thanks to this project I will write about, happening in Helsinki.
When I first came to Finland, it took me a while to get used to separating my waste: bio and others were easy but then in my second apartment in Töölö things got complicated where the plastics were not only plastic, where carton and different kinds of paper had to be separated and where all the instructions were in Finnish. In my current apartment though, we only separate bio waste and daily papers from others.
As a food blogger, I mean since I started baking and cooking this much, I started to pay a special attention on the amount of food I wasted. I realised that many packaged food can be used after its expiry date, the leftovers can make a delicious brand new meal for the next day and if I cooked or baked something too much for me, then it would be a good excuse to invite friends over for a spontaneous meal together. As the youngest of a middle class family of 7 people, I’ve seen many ways to save food from being wasted for years. If not, my father would have to take 5 more jobs probably.
But what is the situation in general in the world, in Europe and especially, in Finland?
About a week ago, a guy named Brennan contacted me on my blog’s Facebook page and explained that they were going to provide free ingredients donated by some supermarkets to a bunch of cooks preparing to participate in Restaurant Day. He asked me if I would be interested in writing about it (and of course I did) and so we met yesterday for a morning coffee in Good Life Coffee in Kallio to talk about this project and more.
Who is Brennan – and Shahram?
Brennan Maury Clark is a young Canadian who came to study international business in Jyväskylä and he still continues. About a couple of months ago, in June, he came to Helsinki and will be going back and forth between the two cities soon. He is the co-founder of Froodly, together with his friend Shahram Eivazi.
What is Froodly?
Froodly is the app the duo is working on and they will soon launch the first version for IOS. This free app will let consumers in Finland to upload the photos of expiring food products in the supermarkets so that other consumers can see and buy these, contributing to a fight against food waste. As the mobile world is an irreplaceable part of everyday life nowadays, the app will combine the contemporary lifestyle with a change-the-world-for-better approach. We take photos for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and so many other social network sites every day, I think we can also take a couple of useful photos too. And once you upload a photo, you will earn credits and you will be able to win a prize! Learn more about the app on www.froodly.com and see the details of the app, how it will work and what prizes you will get. You can also be one of the early users!
And so what is the relationship between Froodly and Restaurant Day?
About a week ago, the guys realised that the latest Restaurant Day was going to happen quite soon (on August 16th!) and they come up with a brilliant idea: they publish a blog post inviting cooks of the event to contact them if they want ingredients provided for them free by Froodly team, taken from the supermarkets as donations and would otherwise be thrown away the day after. They announce that they will collect and deliver the food for them. And they receive a large amount of emails and Facebook messages from volunteering cooks! The cooks and restaurants are limited to Helsinki because of practical reasons. The cooks provide them with ingredients list, however Brennan and Shahram do not know what they will get from the supermarkets of course! So once they get it, they will distribute them between the cooks according to their list, hoping to cover as much as their needs (the guys collected the food from supermarkets yesterday, August 14th!).
Do you know the bitter facts of food waste around the world?
The fact in my opening sentence about the food waste comes from www.theworldcounts.com. If you go to their website, your eyes will pop out seeing the rapidly changing number of tons of food wasted in the world. Not convinced yet? So here are some other facts.
The impact of food waste is economical, environmental, ethical and social – yes, many, if not all, aspects of life are affected by it. The waste in any part of the whole food chain from the manufacture / agriculture phase to final consumption will have a significant impact on the rest of the chain. Imagine, for instance, every food you waste as the final consumer will turn all the energy and time used for the production of this food product to bring it to your plate at home close to nothing. It is not only food that you are wasting, you are throwing up so many other things into the garbage. Still not convinced?
Check UNEP’s website for Food Waste Facts: http://www.unep.org/wed/2013/quickfacts/ I will copy and paste some of those here for you to start with:
– Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
– Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
– In developing countries food waste and loss happens mainly at the early stages of food chain, therefore in these countries the biggest positive impact would be through strengthening of and investment in the supply chain. On the other hand, consumer behaviour is the key issue in industrialised countries, therefore the fight agains food waste should focus on a change in mindset (for more info, please check their website).
When we were kids, especially after Live Aid was broadcast in 1985 (yes, even we could see it in Turkey!), it was a regular thing that my parents would say if we did not want to finish the food on our plates: think about the hungry kids in Africa! Well, unfortunately, they were not serious, or in a way they were, but they did not insist. Years later, now as an adult myself (but not a parent yet), I am taking this very serious.
As a person living alone, I realised that it was not easy to switch to a responsible consumer for one. If you are used to living with friends or family that you always ate together with, at first you may buy more food than you need as one person. I still do some miscalculations every now and then. But you quickly understand yourself, your needs and your body and you start consuming accordingly.
A very good information about how to limit your daily food waste and technical details on food packages such as Best before / Use by dates, together with many other tips in video format are available in European Commission’s website in this link: http://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/food_waste/communications_materials/index_en.htm
And concerning us locals, what is the situation in Finland?
According to the results from the Food Spill study made in 2013 by MTT Agrifood Research Finland, “on average, the amount of food thrown away by every person living in Finland is about 24 kg and worth €125 every year” (taken from Amica.fi‘s food waste related pages). In Finland, about 21 million kilograms of self-prepared food is thrown away every year!
The new generation in Finland is willing to fight against this huge waste though. Many initiatives, private and state organisations, as well as academia are working on the issue. But in the end, again it comes to down to us consumers in the largest part. By paying attention to just a few things we can reduce the waste significantly. On the way to this, some regulations must get more flexible in governmental level to make food donations easier. On the contrary, Brennan says, for instance in the US, there is a law which says that anything marked as a “donation” is free from regulation but people mostly are not aware of this law, so they do not do anything (hence a huge amount of waste). In Finland, part of equally regulated EU, many people today opt for a similar law but the situation is not there yet. Soon, hopefully.
However, as a foreigner living in Finland, I have to add that the things you can do to stop food waste in Finland, the things you can do especially in consumer level, should be better communicated in English. I strongly agree that we should be willing to learn Finnish, but it is not the easiest language in the world and in the meantime, we should still be able to contribute to the community. Besides, Finland is getting an increasing amount of degree or exchange students from all over the world and most of them are here for only a limited amount of time so it would be very helpful for them at least to have sufficient information in English. Well, if anything, just follow your nose in the end. Not all the products become inedible 1 minute past the expiry date. I am not telling you to find a way to reuse milk turned into a solid bulk (and you should consume it before it becomes so!) but you can continue eating many things a bit longer by just, you know, smelling it!
I will be soon on my way to meet some of the cooks that are participating in Restaurant Day cooperating with Froodly guys. And tomorrow I will be visiting as many restaurants of this cooperation as possible. I will taste how these cooks turn these ingredients which would be normally in the waste right this moment, into beautiful delicacies. If you want to visit those restaurants, here is a list:
Phloopy’s Crêperie – Kannelmäki Railway Station, starting at 8.00
Ethiopian Lunch on Ravintolapäivä – Juustenintie 3, between 10.30-18.30
Ravintola Uusi Kuu – Limingantie 44-46, between 11.30-14.30
Restaurant Day + Zambian picnic – Tokoinranta, starting at 12.00
The Match Box Project – Esplanade, will find more about it today
Salmorejo – Plazankuja 5
Romanian Cuisine at Restaurant Day – Esplanadi, between 9.00-18.00
I will try to update this list when I know more. In the meantime, organise your Restaurant Day schedule for tomorrow because there will be 1575 one day restaurants in 25 countries!! But wait, you don’t know what Restaurant Day is? Oh my, you must be kidding me! It is the greatest idea that came out of Finland in recent years – yes, out of all countries, Finland, where food industry and restaurant business is heavily regulated!! Ok then, just check the website: http://www.restaurantday.org/
Enjoy your Restaurant Day!
Excellent article Asli. Thanks for sharing this!
You’re welcome Oscar! ^_^
Great initiative! I wish more people start thinking of how to reduce our waste and minimize the global footprint. It is sad to know how much food waste goes to the landfill instead someone benefits from it!
Yes, I wish the same, Anna! The good thing is there are many people who wish the same and many people working on educating others while trying to change the regulations, for a better, less-waste world!